Kansas newspaper is inundated with year-long subscriptions to be sent to the police department after cops raided newsroom: Reporter has filed a lawsuit over ‘phone snatched by cops’
- The raid, carried out the Marion County Record on August 11, was personally led by Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody, who is being sued by reporter Deb Gruver
- Another raid was enacted on the home of the publisher’ 98-year-old mother Joan Meyer, who died the next day. Her son, Eric, said he is also planning to file a suit
- He says identity theft allegations provided by the department in unreleased documents were an excuse for the search and cops tried to censor the paper
A small Kansas newspaper raided by local cops this month has reportedly been inundated with several year-long subscriptions.
It comes shortly after the paper filed a federal lawsuit against the town’s police chief for snatching a reporter’s cellphone out of her hands.
Another raid was enacted on the home of the publisher’ 98-year-old mother, who died the next day.
Cody, 54, alleged in unreleased court documents that the reporter, identified as Deb Gruver, either impersonated someone else or lied about her intentions when she obtained the driving records of a local liquor store owner, The AP reported.
Only sworn in May, Cody is facing allegations he violated the woman’s constitutional rights by seizing her phone – a move the paper’s publisher says was motivated by the reporter’s investigating into his background with a different police department.
It’s believed the identity theft allegations were a convenient excuse for the search – which cops have yet to explain, according to the outlet.
Hours earlier, a reporter from another outlet shared footage of a Record staffer receiving an order for a year’s subscription – under the unique condition that instead of the caller, it be sent to the police department.
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‘Someone called to buy a year-long subscription to Marion County Record,’ wrote KSHB 41 News‘ Jessica McMaster, in a tweet sharing the video, where the staffer is seen asking a superior if they could uphold the caller’s request.
A supervisor quickly responds: ‘Yeah, we’ll give it to them.’
Aside from inciting local outrage, the raid brought international attention to the small central town of 1,900 – now at the center of a debate over press freedoms.
Reporting on the fallout, McMaster wrote: ‘This has happened a lot since the raid. But, the special request this person made is a first.’
As the record worker jots down the callers’ information for the order, the newspaper’s issue after the raid – whose front-page was devoted to a surveillance snap of officers mid-raid – could be seen strewn along his desk.
Police seized computers, personal cellphones, and a router during the filmed ordeal, all of which were released Wednesday after the county prosecutor concluded there was not enough evidence to justify the action.
Video released by the newspaper two days earlier showed just how upsetting the simultaneous raid a few miles away was to the mother of publisher Eric Meyer, who died the next day.
‘Get out of my house… I don´t want you in my house!’ Joan Meyer, who was also the paper’s coowner, is heard shouting at six officers who were in the home she shared with her son.
The surveillance video shows the elderly woman using a walker and dressed in slippers and a long robe or gown as she approaches the officers, swearing and demanding to know what the officers are doing.
Her son said he believes that the stress contributed to her death, and claimed the paper has received an ‘outpouring of calls’ claiming Cody had retired from his last police post to avoid demotion over sexual misconduct allegations.
He said the reporter who had her phone taken, 30-year vet Gruver, was investigating those allegations, and was specifically targeted.
‘I may be paranoid that this has anything to do with it, but when people come and seize your computer, you tend to be a little paranoid,’ Meyer told The Handbasket.
He told The Kansas City Star they had not yet published the story, because they had not completed their investigation.
‘We didn’t publish it because we couldn’t nail it down to the point that we thought it was ready for publication,’ said Meyer.
‘[Cody] didn’t know who our sources were. He does now.’
And Meyer told AP: ‘This is the type of stuff that, you know, Vladimir Putin does, that Third World dictators do.
‘This is Gestapo tactics from World War II.’
Meyer added this week that he soon plans to soon file his own lawsuit, in addition to Gruver’s.
Gruver – a veteran reporter with more than three decades of experience – said in a statement of her federal First Amendment filing: ‘I’m standing up for journalists across the country.’
‘It is our constitutional right to do this job without fear of harassment or retribution, and our constitutional rights are always worth fighting for,’ said Gruver, who had the words ‘Freedom of the press’ tattooed on her right forearm the same day it was filed.
She has previously worked at other newspapers in Kansas, Wyoming and Indiana and has won awards for her reporting.
The raids of the newspaper and the homes of the Meyers came after a local business owner accused the newspaper of illegally accessing information about her.
The liquor store operator, Kari Newell, accused the newspaper of illegally accessing information about her, and could have got seen her liquor license revoked.
Among Ruver’s reporting, she claimed was personal information to access details about the status of her suspended driver´s license and her record that included a DUI arrest.
A spokesman for the agency that maintains those records has said the reporter’s search on a public website was likely legal.
Meyer didn’t publish the story about Newell because he questioned the source – and instead he told the cops about the information.
Newell then accused the weekly newspaper of illegally getting her personal data, prompting the search.
She also allegedly was unhappy with the newspaper had reported reporting on how Newell kicked out reporters from an event at her restaurant, Kari’s Restaurant.
Meyer told the Kansas City Star: ‘We sent them a note saying that a source had given us a file that we thought had suspicious origins.
‘We checked it out to verify that it was accurate, but were not planning to do anything with it. Their response was the typical fashion of a bully.
‘Instead of asking a question or getting material, they came with an atomic flyswatter to seize our equipment and apparently tried to put us out of business.’
But after Cody handed Gruver a copy of the warrant and she told him that she needed to call the publisher, he quickly grabbed her personal phone and took it.
‘In seizing Ms. Gruver´s personal cellular phone despite the seizure exceeding the scope of the unreasonable and unlawful search warrant, Chief Cody acted in unreasonable and unnecessarily violent fashion, causing injury to plaintiff´s Gruver´s rights and her person,’ the lawsuit said.
One of the officers even read Gruver, another reporter and an office administrator their Miranda rights even though they were never arrested before forcing them outside in the heat to watch the three-hour search.
The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is looking into the newspaper’s actions, but it hasn’t provided any updates on its investigation.
As for the Marion County PD, they have said little publicly since the raids other than posting a defense of them on the police department’s Facebook page.
Penned by Cody personally on August 12, it reads: ‘The Marion Kansas Police Department has has several inquiries regarding an ongoing investigation.
‘As much as I would like to give everyone details on a criminal investigation I cannot. I believe when the rest of the story is available to the public, the judicial system that is being questioned will be vindicated.
‘I appreciate all the assistance from all the State and Local investigators along with the entire judicial process thus far.
Speaking in generalities, the federal Privacy Protection Act, does protect journalists from most searches of newsrooms by federal and state law enforcement officials.
‘It is true that in most cases, it requires police to use subpoenas, rather than search warrants, to search the premises of journalists unless they themselves are suspects in the offense that is the subject of the search.
‘The Act requires criminal investigators to get a subpoena instead of a search warrant when seeking ‘work product materials’ and ‘documentary materials’ from the press, except in circumstances, including: (1) when there is reason to believe the journalist is taking part in the underlying wrongdoing.
‘The Marion Kansas Police Department believes it is the fundamental duty of the police is to ensure the safety, security, and well-being of all members of the public.
‘This commitment must remain steadfast and unbiased, unaffected by political or media influences, in order to uphold the principles of justice, equal protection, and the rule of law for everyone in the community.
‘The victim asks that we do all the law allows to ensure justice is served,’ he went on to vow. ‘The Marion Kansas Police Department will nothing less.’